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HIV-positive Muppet for South Africa's <I>Sesame Street</I> unveiled (6261)

6261Health News2002-09-18

HIV-positive Muppet for South Africa's Sesame Street unveiled

The South African version of the children's television program Sesame Street unveiled an HIV-positive Muppet character on Tuesday, a yellow-orange bearlike character named Kami, who is a 5-year-old girl who was orphaned when her parents died of AIDS complications. The Muppet was unveiled at Cape Town's Groote Schuur Hospital, the only hospital in South Africa offering anti-HIV drug treatments for children. Guests and patients at the hospital also saw a brief clip from the TV series, called Takalani Sesame, in which Kami is introduced to the show's other characters and is invited into their circle. That episode will be broadcast throughout southern Africa on September 30. Kami will continue to appear on the program after that.

South Africa education minister Kader Asmal said the character is designed to help children understand the disease and to teach them that it's safe to play with HIV-positive kids. Kami's name is derived from the Tswana word for acceptance. "Education is the only socially acceptable vaccine available to our people and represents our only hope to save our nation," Asmal said in an address to funders and partners in the project. "We can't continue to have HIV-positive children isolated, demonized, victimized. We want to make all of our children feel comfortable."

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